tv Eyewitness 11PM News CBS March 27, 2010 11:00pm-11:35pm EDT
>> it looks like whoever is involved here is not afraid of committing a crime. >> reporter: the realization of what that might mean for his daughter is too much to bear. >> it occurred to me i hadn't cried in a long time. i've learned how to do that. >> reporter: while paige's family clings to hope she's still alive... >> the reality is creeping in that something bad has certainly happened here. >> reporter: ...investigators turn their attention to paige's second ex-husband, rob dixon. >> the most recent ex-husband is a logical person to take a close look at. >> reporter: paige met dixon in 1997. and back then he seemed like a real catch. >> rob had had a business success with his father, had a significant amount of wealth. >> reporter: it was a whirlwind courtship and the following year the two had a
wedding and started a family together. >> and they moved to grand junction together, moved in to that house together, built on to that house together. >> reporter: but dixon had extravagant tastes and he was reckless with his money, investing millions of dollars in risky business ventures. when the bills started piling up, paige did what she could to pitch in. >> she started a little preschool dance business she called brain dance. ( applause ) she would have recitals twice a year and make costumes for all of the students. >> reporter: paige also sold high-end kitchen supplies out of her home for a company called the pampered shelf. as one of the top sales agent she earned a free trip to the caribbean. but dixon was losing money a lot faster than paige was making it.
in a few short years, his business investments fell through and he lost almost everything. >> i think as financial strain came on the relationship, it got worse and worse. >> reporter: by 2004 the problems in the marriage took a turn for the worse. >> we think of rob as good rob and bad rob. there are times when rob is just really good, funny guy, bright. but at other times rob is a difficult person to be around. he can be violently angry, condescending, derisive. you walk on egg shells. a feeling of tension. >> she stuck by him through a lot. but when he started getting more angry and then finally violent, she had to draw the line there. >> reporter: finally in october paige had to call the police for help.
>> reporter: but by the time police and local media arrived, the crisis was diffused. dixon was allowed to leave after authorities decided he wasn't a threat to himself or anyone else. no charges were filed. >> rob, what happened? >> reporter: one year later the police were called again. paige said dixon had pushed her to the ground, then later he punched her while she was holding their baby. this time, in october 2005, dixon was arrested. but the case was later settled after he completed a course in anger management. >> when everything went rocky and she finally decided enough was enough when the kids and her were put in jeopardy, she decided it was over. >> reporter: by the time the couple divorced in september of 2006, rob dixon had
declared bankruptcy and he was living in philadelphia. when paige disappeared that's exactly where dixon says he was, in philadelphia, 2,000 miles away. but when paige's family finds disturbing entries about dixon written on a web site message board by paige herself, they're hard to ignore. >> i read the things that have been written on her web site, on the pampered chef web site. and they're pretty scary. >> reporter: just three months before she disappeared, paige wrote, "my children would ask me if dad was going to kill me. i can't imagine what they were thinking life would be like after he killed me." investigators questioned dixon about his whereabouts the day his ex-wife vanished but don't release details to the public. >> we can say that we have had contact with rob dixon, and that's all that we'll say about him. >> reporter: paige's family gets word that his alibi holds up. >> i understand that a
person's biography might make them a suspect. at the same time if you're 2,000 miles away, i think it takes you off the roster. >> reporter: both of paige's ex-husbands seem to have solid alibis. so who in paige's life had any motive to harm her? >> hello, you've reached the home office... >> reporter: and that leads investigators to an even bigger mystery: this one about paige herself. >> please leave your message. i'll get back to you within the next few days. >> who knows why people make those sort of choices? certainly not for us to judge.
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>> this is big country out here. it is vast. >> reporter: and the question remains: where to look when the vista stretches out as far as the eye can see. >> there are hundreds of thousands of miles around us which could be used to hide a body. >> reporter: but the investigation is about to get a lucky break. her name is connie flukey. >> we'll never quit. i will never, ever give up. >> reporter: connie got her tireless resolve when a local mother and daughter went missing back in 2001. >> reporter: when jennifer blagg and her six-year-old daughter, abby, disappeared from their home they left behind a shaken community. >> i am very angry knowing that one person knows where she's at is the most frustrating and angry thing to me. >> reporter: she made a promise that no family would have to go through this ordeal alone.
>> this is abby. everybody needs to know who abby is. >> reporter: back then she organized thousands of volunteers to search 45 square miles around the blagg home. >> it was incredible to see the turnout. this whole community got involved. there was employers paying wages of people to come out and search. >> reporter: now connie's search group is being pressed in to service again, this time to help find paige birgfeld. >> i got here about 6:15 to start getting things set up. and people started showing up at 6:30. we had people almost, i mean jumping all over me waiting for me to get teams out. >> her family needs closure, they need to find their baby girl, their sister, their mom. and i think our community should rally around that. >> you know, i'm just overwhelmed by the help. people do pull together and care for each other. >> reporter: connie's strategy: divide and conquer.
each day she breaks hundreds of miles into manageable search areas that can be covered on foot. >> these two areas right here are the most, i mean, rugged, rugged, rugged, rugged. >> it's really amazing what they did. >> this is our search area. >> she just gave hope. we were starting to become so dejected. and she just walked in and took charge. >> i'm getting ready to send a team out, okay? >> reporter: craig and callie get ready to search in the punishing desert heat. >> steve, john and peggy. all right, let's load up. >> reporter: these long days of combing through the desert are a far cry from the life they have on hold back in seattle. >> i'm craig. paige is my sister. i wanted to thank you guys for coming to look for her. >> reporter: he briefs the volunteers on what to do if they find anything that could be linked to his sister.
>> if you find any evidence, number one thing is don't touch it. if you want to tag it, grab something heavy like a rock nearby, tie it around the rock, set the rock either right next to or right on top of the evidence. good luck, everyone. stay hydrated. >> today's going to be the day. i know today's going to be the day. today's the day we're going to find her. >> we'll go up this road, loop back down that one. >> reporter: day after day, the teams navigate through rough terrain. >> we need to sweep this up way. >> reporter: filled with scrub brush and cactus needles. >> people would come in and rest up a little bit. and 20, 30 minutes later do it again. >> do you see something? >> just absolutely relentless. it is really humbling, very humbling. >> reporter: as the volunteers press on, the birgfelds must navigate through a darker,
more difficult terrain: the mysterious double life that paige was apparently leading. >> she had a couple things on her computer. we were saying, "wait a minute, what's this computer doing here?" >> yeah, "why don't the police have this computer?" >> reporter: so they called the police because they were convinced that her computer held clues that could have put her in danger. >> it doesn't change what i think of her. i would give anything to see her again right now and give her a big hug. >> reporter: as craig's concern grows, the search pays off with a discovery that could lead them closer to paige. >> they did find some pretty critical pieces of information for us down on highway 50. >> reporter: various personal items, such as paige's checkbook and a membership card to a local video store, are found scattered along this highway 15 miles from where her burned-out car was discovered.
>> obviously our focus is still on paige-- not just her things, but her things do hopefully lead us to her. >> i want to search every inch of land that i can. i want to be the one doing it, because i know i'm going to look at everything very closely. you have to trust that once the other people search that area, she's not there. wow, a lot of space. >> reporter: for all its beauty, there is clearly a darker side of the mesa. >> it's beautiful, but scary for me now. >> reporter: the search for jennifer blagg, the mother who disappeared in 2001, ended tragically when her body was finally found in the local landfill. >> we the jury find the defendant, michael blagg, guilty of first degree murder. >> reporter: her husband,
michael blagg, is serving a life sentence for her murder. abby blagg remains missing to this day. paige's friends and family pray that their search will end differently. >> every search i pray that we find my sister. we're halfway through this canyon. we haven't found her yet. still hoping we do, but part of me is still praying that we don't. >> reporter: are you still hopeful? >> absolutely. i haven't found her not alive. as long as that condition exists, i presume she is. i choose to hold out hope. >> reporter: if she's in a situation where she can hear you right now, is there anything you want to say to her? >> we're coming, paige. we're coming. we are coming to get you. - ( "mambo italiano" playing ) - announcer: have you ever gone out thinking
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>> first you find out paige is missing. then within a couple of days we started finding out about this other life that we didn't know about. >> reporter: it was a life she kept secret from her family. >> at first blush she looked to us to be a really good mom, very active with her kids. >> reporter: d.a. pete hautzinger. >> then some things came out that pretty much changed everything. >> reporter: that's when grand junction began asking, not just where paige birgfeld was, but also who she was, who she really was. >> she had a side industry. it wasn't just any side business. >> reporter: it turns out paige wasn't just teaching dance classes and selling kitchen products. in provocative ads on the internet, paige was also known
as carrie, a high-priced escort. >> i for one was shocked. i've been a prosecutor for 20 years. this is the first time i've encountered somebody from that kind of socioeconomic level and that kind of family involvement to be involved in this business. >> reporter: sessions with carrie could include stripping, dancing and role- playing. on one web site, she suggests that clients can pay for extras, such as topless and nude massage. she asked potential clients, "are you tired of chopped meat showing up when you ordered fillet mignon?" >> those were things that we didn't know anything about before she went missing, but have unfortunately learned about since. >> i think for frank and susie that the thought of their daughter even doing that, it didn't even cross their minds because it's their daughter. you don't think your daughter is going to do that. so i think for them it was a
really, really big shock. >> reporter: as upsetting as it was for paige's family to learn about her secret life, they're convinced she turned to the escort world for one reason and one reason only: her children. >> she found herself in a position of being the bread winner and trying to make ends meet. >> reporter: paige had three kids to support and a huge mortgage to pay: nearly $6,000 a month. >> it never really made sense to me that she would be able to come up with the mortgage for that place for more than a couple of months. >> reporter: her friends say paige did what she had to do and turned to the one job she knew would pay well. >> she always saw a situation and got it under control. if something needed to be done, she made sure it happened. >> i would say that whatever she was doing was for her children.
>> and it has no bearing on the kind of mother, friend that she is. >> reporter: and her sister-in-law, callie, now thinks she knows where paige got the idea to become an escort in the first place. many years earlier, callie had asked paige how she was able to afford her first home on a dance teacher's salary. >> i flat out asked her if she was doing something other than teaching dance. and she told me that she had been stripping. >> reporter: before becoming a mother, paige had worked as a stripper at a place called the mile high saloon. >> in denver when she was 21 years old, she said she had been making $400,000 a year doing it and that she didn't need to do it anymore. >> reporter: but apparently she later did. >> so then like, okay, you can see where paige made the next move to escort.
>> i wish i had been given the opportunity to be involved and perhaps been able to sort it out. i would have counseled her that that strikes me as dangerous; it doesn't sound totally moral. >> reporter: paige's family knows this new information could help investigators figure out who was responsible for paige's disappearance. >> it opens up a whole other list of people, a whole other group of people. >> reporter: it will also bring them closer to learning what happened to paige. news that is difficult to hear. >> reporter: what do you think happened to her? >> i think she was probably murdered by one of her clients. >> reporter: did she have a diary, a black book? >> not that i'm aware of. >> reporter: but she did have that cell phone. and that helps investigators track down everyone who had contact with paige. >> we have looked very
carefully at all of her clients and have made every effort to investigate everybody who may have been on that list of people she was going to be contacting later that night. >> reporter: before long, they honed in on one man, a 56-year-old father of two named lester ralph jones. >> actually, i was out searching and that's the first time i ever heard of him. at that time the rumor was that he had known paige through the escort service. >> reporter: can you tell us if ralph was a client? >> yes, mr. jones was a client of miss birgfeld. >> reporter: a regular client? >> my understanding there had been at least more than one encounter. >> reporter: between the two of them? >> yeah. >> reporter: authorities get warrants to conduct searches of his home where he lives with his third wife. they spend hours searching through his belongings, but won't talk about what they found, not even with paige's family. >> i can't comment specifically as to what was or was not found in mr. jones' home.
>> reporter: and remember her burned-out car, discovered a few miles from her home? search dogs lead investigators from that parking lot to an r.v. shop across the street. it turns out that's where ralph jones worked as a mechanic. >> the fact that her car was burning so close to his place of employment is at least one significant fact. common sense certainly would indicate that it's something more than a coincidence. >> reporter: do you know if they spoke on the phone that night? >> i do not know. >> reporter: you don't know if he was one of the people that she had an appointment with that night. >> i'm not going to answer that question. >> reporter: the d.a. is not elaborating. but sources close to the investigation tell us, there is something that ties ralph jones to paige birgfeld the night she disappeared. they say one of the last phone conversations paige had was with someone using a throw- away phone like this one.
and although jones denies buying such a phone, sources tell us there is surveillance video from a local store showing ralph jones purchasing that phone. jones declined our request for an interview, but he denies having anything to do with paige's disappearance. would you say he's capable of murder? >> i honestly couldn't answer that. >> reporter: but ralph jones does have a criminal record, a record that shows he was more than capable of violence. >> then we're also able to find out some newspaper articles about that whole previous case. it's pretty scary stuff. >> reporter: jones was arrested for two incidents involving his estranged wife, lisa, back in 1999. he served three years in prison after pleading guilty to kidnapping and assault charges, both felonies. >> those are by definition kind of violent offenses. >> none of that bodes well if
paige had any kind of involvement with him at all. >> not the kind of person you want to be out alone with your sister. >> reporter: and so more than three months after paige birgfeld disappears, authorities publicly clear her two ex-husbands and name the one target of their investigation. >> we have narrowed it down to one primary suspect, that being lester ralph jones. ,, saying good-bye to a comcast worker. comcast worker. sarah palin back on the trail ♪ lean on me... ♪ ...when you need something strong ♪ ♪ i'll be your friend... ♪ ♪ i'll help you carry on... ♪ ♪ so call on me brother...
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>> reporter: it has been a long winter, and the snow on the mesas stop the search for the missing mother of three. but with the spring thaw comes new resolve and a new search for paige birgfeld. >> the places i'm looking i don't want to find her. i want to see her in the position she'll be in. but i need to do this, i owe it to her, i owe it to her family. let's go. come on, let's go find paige. let's go find her. >> reporter: frank birgfeld now walks this rugged terrain with paige's dog. >> let's go find her. >> reporter: it is just one more reminder of how life has changed for them all. >> there's so many acres. >> we got to find her.